Camping in Hawaii
—Barb and Ty Belknap
The week on Maui went by fast. Every day was filled with sailing, eating fish tacos and tropical fruit, playing tennis, bodysurfing at sunset, or some tile grouting in trade for our fine accommodations. We stayed at our friends Robbie and Pat’s place a block from the ocean in Kihei, a great little beach town, where folks like us live next to the more exclusive town of Wailea, the vacation home of Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg.
Robbie (formerly Rohini Skilling of Placitas) and her husband, Pat, have converted their sunny upstairs room and porch into a beautiful, reasonably priced, furnished efficiency apartment for short-term rentals. (To book, call them at 808-891-0872.)
Expenses were adding up too fast, though, especially due to $40-a-day windsurfer rentals—one man’s addiction that contributed little to a family vacation on a tight budget.
It was good to move on to the next leg of the trip: camping on the island of Kauai. An hour after the thirty-minute flight arrived we were camped next to the ocean in the county park at Anahola Bay.
It was the Fourth of July, and late-night pyrotechnics were provided by an Hawaiian family down the beach who were camped under a huge canopy. Like us, they were in the publishing business: the authors of a newsletter for the growing sovereignty movement that seeks the return of the islands that were stolen by our people (as we were told in detail) from their rightful indigenous owners. Even so, none of the three generations of family members showed any hostility toward us haoles (white people); in fact, they seemed happy to share food, beer, and the beach with us.
The next day required a trip to the government offices in Lihue for camping permits that cost $6 per day. We bought lawn chairs, an ice chest, and a grill, stocked up on food, and headed north up the east coast for a couple days at Haena Beach County Park.
This was one of the best beaches on Kauai, but unfortunately it was jammed to capacity with holiday campers. We slung a hammock between two trees just outside the park and pitched our tent on the beach. Nobody was around to tell us where to camp, and it seemed that the whole lush, tropical island was free for the taking. It was a prime spot, although when the wind and rain came up, it began to appear that sleep deprivation might be the price of paradise.
Our next destination, the trail along the Na Pali Coast, lay just west of Haena. It became obvious after toiling and sweating along the rugged, slippery mud trail that our backpacks were too heavy for us to enjoy the eleven-mile hike to our designated campsite. At the two-mile mark, the rain-forest campsites by the river above the beach were impossible to pass up. We enjoyed three days there in a Robinson Crusoe state of mind while hiking a two-foot-wide trail that wound along the incredible sheer cliffs at the coast and inland to waterfalls. Warm, gentle rain showers blew in on the trade winds every few hours.
The crowds had thinned out when we emerged from our hike, and we found deluxe accommodations at Anini Beach County Park which included cold outdoor showers, electronic flush toilets, a canopy of trees overhead to keep out the rain and sun, and a picnic table.
Another week of swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and relaxation drifted by until we were finally kicked out of camp on the weekly cleaning day. Some lucky people in Kauai spend months or even years migrating from camp to camp. One woman peering out from her large sleeping tarp smiled and said, “I’ve got the million-dollar view. Why do anything else?” Mark Twain described Hawaii as “a paradise for an indolent man . . . he can sun himself under the palm trees and be no more troubled by his conscience than a butterfly would.”
Three more days of camping lay ahead in Waimea Canyon State Park, reserved and paid for in advance at $5 per day. The road into the park rises steeply from sea level to four thousand feet overlooking “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific” on one side and and the Na Pali Coast on the other. The campsite was an emerald-green grassy clearing in the forest. It was beautiful, and for some reason we had the whole place to ourselves. But at 3:00 a.m., we found out why, when hundreds of feral roosters—”jungle fowl,” as they are called in the tourist brochures—launched a competition to announce the dawn. It went on for hours. That was the end of our camping trip.
The manager of the Garden Island Inn at Kalipaki took one look at us and immediately discounted the room by nearly half. We must have looked kind of wild-eyed, windblown, and alien to the world of Mai Tais and commercial tourism. It was a look that we hoped to retain despite the hot showers, soft beds, and long flight home.